Back to Informative Index
Back to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why is a Cat called a Cat?

The name Cat is used by almost every European nation with a slight variation:

Scratch my belly! English: cat
Welsh: cath
French: chat
German: Katze
Italian: gatto
Spanish: gato
Swedish/Norwegian: katt
Holland/Belgian/Danish: kat

The word for cat in ancient Egypt was Mau. It is also found in countries around the Mediterranean: in yiddish it is kats, in greek, ga'ta, and in maltese qattus. The source appears to be Arabic, because the oldest use of it is found in North Africa, where it is quttah. And there is a similar word used by the Berber tribesman.

This fits with the idea that all domestic cats are descended from the North African wild cat, felis lybica, via domestication by the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians also provide us with an explanation of why we call a cat puss or pussy, these being variations of the name of the early Egyptian cat goddess, Bast (pronounced Pasht). Tying the animal even tighter to this part of the world is the origin of the word tabby, which comes from its Turkish name utabi. And the general word for a cat in Turkey is kedi, which has probably given us our pet word kitty.

Other Countries:

African dialect: Katsi
Albanian: Macë
Arabic: Biss/Hirrah/Qitah/Quttah
Armenian: Gatz
Basque: Catua
Bulgarian: Kotka
Catalan: Gat
Cherokee (Tsalagi): Wesa
Chinese: Mao
Cree: Bushi
Czech: Kocka
Dutch: Poes
Esperanto: Kato
Estonian: Kiisu
Farsi: Gorbe
Filipino: Pusa
Finnish: Kissa
Fula (New Guniea): Gnari
Gaelic: Cait
Gujarati (India): Biladi
Hawiian: Popoki
Hebrew: Cha'tool(a) (m/f)
Hindi: Billy
Hungarian: Cica/Macska
Icelandic: Köttur
Japanese: Neko
Korean: Ko-yang-ee
Latin: Cattus
Lithuanian: Katinas
Malay/Indonesian: Kucing
Mayan: Miss
Netherlands: Kat/Poes (m/f)
Polish: Kot
Romanian: Pisica
Russian: Kot/Koshka (m/f)
Slovak: Macka
Swahili: Paka
Thai/Vietnamese: Meo
Ukranian: Kotuk
Zulu: Ikati

Back to Informative Index

Return to top of page